INVADER ZIM Fact #16

Cooksey.  The man.  The mullet.

Guess who’s in a hotel room, jacked into the sweet sweet wireless, and writing another ZIM FACT on their laptop and not on their phone? And guess who hit a cop giving a guy a ticket on the side of the freeway and is now waiting in terror of the furious banging on their hotel room door, freezing their ass off because he’s leaving the window open so as to more quickly leap out for a quick getaway like William H. Macy in Fargo?

But that’s just human life and not animated hijinks, so enough about that, yeah?

As I am holed up here, my car hidden behind a Shari’s Restaurant down the street, out of sight and hopefully safe from all but people lurching out and vomiting cheese sticks behind Shari’s, my laptop my only real source of warmth  against the night air blasting through my escape hatch, I can enjoy a bit more time to write this latest entry to do my part for the people of Earth.

I know things have gotten a bit rough in these last few entries, with me literally writing them while running, or hanging from telephone wires hanging out of hotel windows on the 15th floor, or while beheading zombie after zombie in the BATTLE-DOME, or while driving on treacherous, winding freeways or…

Wait…Hah!  That wasn’t the BATTLE- DOME.  That was the Emerald City Comicon I was at, and…and I guess those zombies were just fans wanting to get things signed.  Man…my head, sometimes.  I’m always forgetting where my glasses are when they’re already on my own face, or sawing the heads off of people at conventions while horrified onlookers look on and scream at me to please oh god stop oh god the blood is getting in my children’s mouths.  Heeheehee.  Oh, meeeee.

This just gets me thinking that it has been forever since I’ve hit up the ol’ BATTLE-DOME.  Mention my name and you get half off entry and half a churro.

Con was pretty fun, looking back on it.  It was the third time I’ve signed in Seattle, and only the second at that convention in particular.  I pretty much got what I wanted out of it:

1.  Emptied out even more of those cursed pens full of devil-ink that the wizard told me would make my life a living hell until I passed the horror onto the lives of the unsuspecting.  I don’t usually feel so bad about what I’m doing by signing people’s stuff as I don’t have to watch the effects show themselves, but now and then someone asks to have a limb or something signed instead of just paper, and that shit just starts within minutes, often within sight of the signing booth, and holy god is that a thing I could do without.

“Thanks, Jhonen!  It was real nice meeting you and having you sign my arm!  You’re not nearly as bad as people say you are onli….on…oh..oh god what’s happening to my bones?”

“I’m so sorry.” I say, covering myself in a plastic garbage bag to protect my fancy clothes.

2.  Seattle’s finest candy delivery robot.  I’m pretty sure this is how it works for anyone visiting Seattle, where they are greeted by an awesome robot that brings you fancy candies, but it’s still pretty neato.

But you did not tune in to hear me prattle on about curses and why everything is better when robots do it, you are here for INVADER ZIM things, no?  Yes.  NO!  Yeah?  Right.

FACT:

Danny Cooksey, voice actor for ZIM’s “best” friend, Keef, had a small role in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  Remember the earlier scenes with John Connor at his home, riding around on his motorcycle and listening to what, thanks to the editing, seemed like the a criminally long version of that ‘You Could Be Mine’ Guns’n'Roses song?  His red-haired, be-mulletted friend in those scenes is none other than Danny “DA KEEF” Cooksey.

Danny’s work on Keef is still some of the best voice acting in the entirety of the show, with him coming in to do occasional bits on incidental characters beyond just Keef.  Never had anything but praise for the quality of his voice work from day one.

It was everything else about him that made me wish I had just settled for a little worse from someone else.

When Danny Cooksey first came in for the Bestest Friend sessions, Terminator 2 was a sort of good-natured joke that we’d bring up with him.  All of us being movie nerds, we’d occasionally poke at some of the actors that came in with a bit of genre history, dorking out at these little brushes with anyone who had anything to do with these films that helped define our horrifically wasted lives, and Cooksey fucking got shoved by the T-1000.  That’s just too awesome not to bother him about.

So we did, and it was all good fun and the session went on and everyone was happy.

At that time, Cooksey looked pretty much how you’d expect, like a slightly older, but still boyish version of the kid he was back when he was in Terminator 2, that kid looking like a somewhat older version of the really little kid he was when he starred with another kind of Terminator, Gary Coleman, in Different Strokes.

The Cooksey that came in to do work for those early sessions had no mullet, wore no denim vest, and didn’t listen to Guns’n'Roses while riding around on a dirt bike.  Why would he?

Something weird began to happen over time, and it was a process that was so gradual that it took us months to really notice it.  I imagine that anyone watching time lapse footage of Cooksey’s visits would catch it right away, but to us, it was just a nagging bother in the back of our minds.

“Danny, you growing your hair out?” I asked one day, noticing how shaggy his hair had gotten, a noticeable change from the closer cropped do he had come in with initially.  He’d explain that he was just busy these days and that haircuts were just a bit of a hassle lately.

“Danny, you change something?  You look different.” I’d ask on another session with him.  He’d explain that it was laundry day, and that all he had was some denim stuff that he had sitting around.

Over time, Danny’s hair had become a very definite mullet, and the denim was just a way of life for the guy.  Something wasn’t right at all.

Stage 3.

There was the day we were all just setting up for the day’s record, an un-produced episode focusing on the return of Danny’s most famous character, Keef.  In the recording room at the time were a few of the main cast, Richard, Andy, Melissa, Justin the sound tech, and myself.  We were doing our usual morning bullshit session, talking about what we watched last night while trying not to notice Richard’s crying, when the sound of distant, muffled music became increasingly difficult to ignore.

This was the recording room, a room that had been quite properly soundproofed, and still this music grew louder and louder, accompanied by an ever more aggressive rumbly whine.

“What is that?” asked Justin, twisting at some knobs on the control panel, wondering if the sound was something coming from the mixer.

“Is that a motorcycle?” asked Andy, looking around the room at the sound which seemed to come from everywhere.

“I think it is.  I think it’s a motorcycle, or a moped.”  Melissa followed.

“BLOAOOAOOOAAAOOAOOAAARGH!” said Richard.

I knew what it was.  I knew it had to be what I thought it was, but that didn’t make it any less surreal, the way it was getting louder through the rooms thick padding.

“That’s ‘You Could Be Mine’.  Guns’n'Roses.”

Everyone agreed, as weirded out as I was.

“Oh, no…you don’t think…” said Andy, trailing off.

The doors opened, and in came Danny on a dirtbike, his trashy denim outfit, vest and all, his horrific mullet, a boombox mounted on the handlebars blasting ‘You Could Be Mine’.

“YEWWWWWW CUUUUD BE MYEEEEYIIIIIINE!” he howled, gyrating to the music as he dismounted the still running bike.

“Danny!  Hey Danny!” I called out, trying to get his attention, to cut through whatever had taken control of him, the very thing which had led to this hideous display.

“Danny!  Look man, this has gotten out of hand.  DANNY!  Come on, look at me!  Danny, I should’ve said something sooner, but you need help.  Please let us-”

“CUZ YOU’RE WAYYYYYY OOOOUUUUUTTUUVVV  TIYEEEEYIIIIIME!!”

Andy ran to Danny, grabbing him by the wrist to try to still him a bit.  ”Danny, it’s me, Andy.” he said.  ”Why don’t we just-” his words choked off as Danny headbutted him ferociously, sending Andy sprawling on the ground.  He was still breathing, but he sure as hell wasn’t moving much beyond that.

“WITH YOUR BIGSHOT RECORDS AND YOUR HUMMABOO WIIINE!” Danny continued, obviously not knowing the words but incapable of not belting out the wrong ones either way, thrashing about as though that song was actually cool.

“DANNY!  NO DANNY!” I cried out, wanting to get to Andy and help him but afraid to step closer to Danny who danced around the fallen as though it was a Mexican hat dance where the hat was a spider-monkey molester instead of a hat.

At that, Richard stood up and began to howl in that way he did when he was scared and confused.  He ran to the door and clawed at it, not understanding how the doorknob worked.  He pulled and twisted and bit at the thing, finally managing to yank it open by sheer luck.  As soon as he saw it open just a crack, he rammed his face into the opening, shoving through by sheer force alone, rather than opening it wider, the skin of his face tearing and snagging along the sharp edges.  As soon as he made it out, he ran and screamed into the studios’s main lobby, and the last thing we in the sound room heard was the terrified squeals of the poor bastards who happened to be in there with a spooked Richard.  I could only imagine what they were witnessing, but since Richard’s first response to any kind of scare was to suck on the comforting breast of the first plus-size woman he came into contact with, imagining was about as far as I wanted to know.

I turned to give Justin a look, hoping to get that look in return, a look of support that said “of course I’ll help you, man.  SOMETHING has to be done!”, but all I got in return was a face full of cowardly urine.  Looking around the room, I saw that the remaining few had regressed to a feral survival state, cowering in corners and waiting for the scene to pass.  Even Andy, though unconscious, was wetting his pants.

But not me.  My pants were dry.  My pants were drier than ever before.

“AHSAIDYEWWWWWW CUUUUUD BE MIIIYEEYIIIINE!” Danny went on, doing a high kick into Justin’s midsection, putting him down and making him even more useless to me than he already was.  Danny had obviously regressed back to the time of Terminators, and simply could not recognize what was happening as, to him, none of what was happening in the present even existed.  He was lost in a dream, waiting to wake up and head over to John Connor’s house and get to the arcade to play Afterburner or something.  I don’t know exactly how this sort of thing works, but I had seen it before, and I knew that all I could do was ride it out.

Making like Johnny Rico on a tanker bug, I dodged one of Danny’s crazed lunges and leapt up onto his back and clung on for dear life.  Could I tire him out?  I’ve never weighed very much in my life, but I recall those days specifically because of the unusually high winds we were getting in Los Angeles, and I had taken to wearing many layers of clothing and several oversized hats filled with sand bags, so, if anything, I weighed more than your average grown man.  Cooksey staggered under the weight of me and my hats but it sure as hell did not stop him.

“YOU’VE GOT SKETCHERS NOW TOO MANY TIMES, WHY DON’T YOU GIVIDDA REST!”  Danny screeched, swaying back and forth, and in the process, stepping on the back of Andy’s head.  I could hear a sad little moan leak up from the floor and the brittle, slight snapping of a skull under the weight of a man gone back in time like some kind of assrock William Hurt in Altered States and the pressure of sand-filled hats.

As Danny twisted to some particularly “badass” part of the song, Melissa, cowering there on the couch, was brought into my field of view, and I could see that she was dropping her pants.  I was both mystified and a bit ashamed to be seeing this, but some part of me must’ve known what was going on for in that moment I pulled one of my hats down over my face to protect me.

Hot urine blasted us from the front.  Me, I could hear it hitting the helmet that used to be my hat, but Danny, protected only by denim and a mullet (not much protection at all), got a the full on frontal fury of it.  He bucked backwards, throwing me onto the center console where Justin was still curled up and dripping.  Justin broke my fall, and his neck in the ordeal, but more importantly my fall, so I was okay.

As I popped up from over the other side of the console, using Justin’s corpse as cover, I could see that Danny was playing an air guitar solo with Melissa’s now lifeless body.  What he had done to her I couldn’t know, but I did know that even though she had all the intelligence of a squirrel in those final moments of hers, she used that intelligence to help me in the only way she could.  It had worked, too.  I could see that Danny’s urine drenched face had lost some of the madness.  Not entirely, but enough for maybe some of the real Danny to break through, to understand what was happening though he was powerless to stop it.

“Danny!  I pleaded.  FIGHT IT!  FIGHT IT DANNY!”

“YEWWWWWWWW….EWWWW….h….help meeee…..MIYEEEEYIIIIINE!”

It was Danny, fighting to speak through the delirium.  I almost broke down weeping at the pathos of it all, but there was no time.  I still had to help.  ”Danny!  This isn’t you!  You can fight it!  You can choose!”

“BUT’CHOR WAYYYY OUUUUTUVV  LIYEEYIIIIINNNNNE!”

“Choose!”

“YEWWWWWWWWWW!!!”

“CHOOSE!”

The part of Danny that managed to speak, to punch through the Guns’n'Roses, that part was buried, but some other part still lived on, and it fought.  It CHOSE.

As Danny sang and gyrated, he held his arms, bracing them under his jaw, his singing distorted as the presser was too great for him to open his mouth much.  While he sang, the strain on his neck was apparent, the force of it supernatural.

Have you ever heard a man sing ‘You Could Be Mine’ as they tear their own head off?

I have.

I have to say it was one of the most terrible sights, and yet beautiful for the sheer force of will of it all.  Danny knew he could never come back, never be how he was.  He took actions into his own hand and he had the resolve to be good on that.  I was in awe, standing there, watching a man behead himself to retain what dignity was left in his body.

The door opened.  It was Butch Hartman.  There was a Fairly Oddparents record session immediately after ours, and he was just popping in to ask about scheduling or who knows what.

“Hey, how’s it goin?  I was wondering if-” he began, but Danny had swung around, and with his last bit of strength and life, thrown his head into Butch’s face.  Butch was slammed back into the wall so hard that part of it broke from the impact, his top half hanging inside the hole, his legs and such hanging limply.

I wiped the tears from my eyes, surrounded by the wreckage of what was once a beautiful working relationship.

“Help mee…” Andy begged in a feeble voice, collapsed in a puddle of urine and blood, Danny’s headless body resting atop his back.  I had already started walking out of the recording room, and imagined cameras filming me do so in slow motion, so to turn around and break the moment just didn’t make any dramatic sense.  As the door slowly closed behind me, Andy’s mewling was quieted.

Oh, yeah, Danny was Budnick on Salute Your Shorts.

–ZIM FACTS. Here’s why—